Beneath Ceaseless Skies #96, May 31, 2012
Reviewed by Sherry Decker
“The Magic of Dark and Hollow Places” by Adam Callaway bodes ominous from the start. Chernyl loves Trinia, and he slaves away in the coal mines, saving money to pay her dowry, but it’s an agonizingly slow process.
He experiences an accident and comes down with the Parchment Plague, something for which there is no cure, only harsh preservation bath treatments. The Parchment Plague turns flesh to paper and blood into ink. Chernyl tears off squares or strips of skin and writes letter in blood to Trinia. They are desperate, sad letters.
There are people around Chernyl, who desire the Parchment Plague. He is immortal. He is worshiped. Whatever he writes on his strips of flesh, comes true. If he writes butterflies, his torn skin turns into butterflies and they flutter around him briefly before crumbling to dust.
The preservation baths are called dips. Chernyl enters a stoppered bottle the size of a buoy, and remains immersed in the near-boiling fluid, allowing it to enter his eyes and ears. He feels it burning but feels no pain. The alchemist, Francini, tells him, “Next dip will probably dissolve ya.”
The ending was not totally unexpected, but it was appropriate. The writing style was artistic and not easy to follow, but it was moody and interesting.
“Serkers and Sleep” by Kenneth Schneyer is a clever, straightforward fairytale type story, a fable, a myth, a magical, mystical, imaginative concept mixed with legend.
Six year old Scuffer helped his family kill his uncle because Uncle Mallard was bitten by a serker. Once bitten, a victim experiences amazing strength for a few days, and then violent madness. Before the madness caused Uncle Mallard to kill everyone else, they took his life ‘humanely’ although the execution is not described.
Thirteen year old Scuffer is able to read an ancient book that no one else can read. A short phrase or sentence appears to him out of all the scribbles and pretty designs. One late night, Scuffer wakes and reads a line in the book that tells him to climb into the rafters because, She Will Kill You. Scuffer’s best friend, Dipper, was bitten by a serker and she, in her growing madness, is hunting him. Dipper is imprisoned, waiting out the growing madness and the town’s confusion as to how to execute a child.
The book leads Scuffer on a long and difficult journey into the mountains where he learns the history of his town. He finds a two-hundred year old sorcerer-serker sleeping in a small, stone tomb. Scuffer wonders, is this the cure? Sleep? The old sorcerer wakes, distraught because it’s been so long since he made himself sleep, and everyone he loved is dead and gone. Scuffer convinces the old sorcerer-seeker to return home with him, hoping he can help Dipper with this knowledge.
The story ends when Scuffer and Dipper are sixteen. Good story. I enjoyed it.